Kentucky judge throws out Jewish mothers’ challenge to abortion ban

The women argue that state abortion ban violates their religious freedom


A woman is holding a cardboard with the text "My body my choice". She's marching with other people at an LGBTQIA pride event.

A Kentucky judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by three Jewish mothers, which challenged the state’s abortion ban.

Lisa Sobel, Jessica Kalb, and Sarah Baron filed the challenge on grounds of religious freedom.

They argued that the state’s ban on abortion in almost all circumstances, and definition of life as beginning at conception, violated the freedom of those who believe life begins at birth.

Last Friday, Judge Brian C Edwards ruled that the case could not advance because none of the women were currently pregnant, meaning that it was based on “fears of hypothetical or future harm” as opposed to current harm.

The plaintiffs – who are fighting “to ensure religious freedom and access to critical reproductive medical care” – have said they will not back down.

In a post on the women’s GoFundMe page, Sobel wrote: “We remain committed to pursuing justice and clarity through the legal process. Our fight continues, not just for ourselves but for all those who seek fairness and understanding in matters that touch upon the very essence of life and law.”

The three women have a personal stake in the case, saying they are religiously motivated to extend their families and they would all need to undergo IVF in order to do so. Under Kentucky’s abortion law, IVF is restricted, especially with regard to the disposal of surplus embryos.

Sobel, Kalb, and Baron filed their case in 2022, shortly after Roe v Wade - the historic decision which protected abortion rights - was overturned and Kentucky criminalised abortion. They note that procreation has a “special place in Jewish law, thought, and tradition,” and that “forcing a mother to deliver a dead fetus to term…is contrary to Jewish law”.

Theirs is not the only case brought by Jews against abortion bans in the United States. Jewish leaders and activists have filed suits in Florida, Missouri and Indiana, some in partnership with other faith groups.

The National Council of Jewish Women also created a fund to help women access abortions in the US shortly before Roe v Wade was overturned in June 2022, triggering restrictive laws in states across the country.

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